On The Days When I Wonder What I’m Doing With My Life

 

music stops

There are still days when the music stops. No matter how much you did, have done, or are about to do, there are still days when your well runs dry. You worry what’s next. You claw at the corners and beg them to bring you inspiration. You swing your feet at the edge of the cliff and shake your fists to the sky. It matters not how hard you’ve worked, how many hurdles you’ve jumped, or how many brick walls you’ve broken with your bare hands. There are still days when the music stops.

It seems as though those days never quite go away. Or, maybe they do and I simply have not taken enough breaths in this life to know it just yet. But, for me, those days do not end. Maybe they subside. Maybe they hibernate. Maybe they shrink from a roar to a whisper. But, there are still days that leave me feeling small and inconsequential, sunken and incomplete. There are still days when I cry for some sort of sign that I am on the right path, only to be met with a deafening whir of white noise.

I used to hate those days. And, perhaps I shouldn’t write that in past tense because I still do. I still hate those days. They leave me feeling dazed and confused, empty and inadequate. Those days leave me rolling my eyes at hashtags and sucking my teeth at Twitter chats. Those are the days that send me a shiny invitation for a coffee date with my stunning self critic. She sits cockily on the other side of the table. She tells me I am foolish and takes a sip of her drink. She tells me I should suck it up and settle for the life I have. She tells me I want too much. I expect too much. She narrows her eyes and asks me, “Who are you to have the audacity to want such an extraordinary life?” She sips. I sip. We drink until there’s nothing left.

Last week I had one of those days when the music stopped. 6:06 p.m. One of my last hourlong bus rides before moving for an easier commute. A dreary sky for the greater balance of the day. A day when nostalgia made a home in my heart and nested there for the afternoon. A hollow pit where bursts of creativity lived only a few weeks prior. A clear inbox. No one asking me what size paintings they should bring to the showcase or how long their set could be. A buzz of elevator music humming inside my little effervescent heart, the same place where a soundtrack of inspiration played days before. Yes, last week I had one of those days when the music stopped. Last week I had one of those days when I wondered what on God’s green and gritty earth I’m doing with my life.

But, I still had these words. I still had all these things and all these thoughts–spilling ferociously from my heart and pleading for a page to call home. Because, somehow, even when the music stops, my love for the craft keeps dancing to its unbreakable two step. When the music stops, I learn to savor the quiet and soak up the rest. When the music stops, I’m reminded that the passion does not. The fervor does not. The rush from conceiving new ideas and bearing witness as they come to life does not ever leave my veins.

On the days when I wonder what I’m doing with my life, that life tells me to turn on Norah Jones’ “Sunrise.” That life tells me to pour a glass of wine. That life tells me to keep walking down this jagged and narrow sidewalk with my heart open and my head to the sky. On the days when I wonder what I’m doing with my life, that life has already offered the answer by way of the fire that flows through my fingertips.

So, when the music stops, I rise to the challenge of writing a new song.

Here’s to a new season. Here’s to a new song.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Countdown to 25: A Letter To My 21-Year-Old Self

Dear 21-year-old Tyece,

Twenty one.
Twenty one.

You’ve just finished reading all three installments of Ellyn Spragins’ “What I Know: Letters to My Younger Self” series, so naturally, you have all of the answers.

Or not.

It’s so like you to binge on advice books before you graduate. Because I am your older self, I can laugh and tell you how much of an asshole you are for that. (No one else can say those things, but I can.) Those books won’t be the last. You’ll purchase Katie Couric’s “The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons From Extraordinary Lives” and devour that too. That’s how you are. That’s who you are. When you’re worried or anxious, you read up on the source of your anxiety as much as you can. You dig for answers. But, this time, there aren’t any answers to prepare you for the fuckery of your extraordinary life.

People always give you the kind of advice that skews on the side of encouragement. Sometimes they sugarcoat shit for you because underneath your tough exterior, they know just how fragile you are. But, I’m going to try not to sugarcoat this because I know everything underneath that tough exterior, and I know that you can handle what I am going to say. I know that you can handle it because nearly four years later, I know what you have lived through. I know what you have endured. I know the mountains you’ve traversed and the demons you’ve fought. I know that you are not just a tough exterior, but that you are one tough woman.

Stick Spragins on the shelf. Put Couric next to her. And, stop looking for other people to guide you or affirm you or prepare you for what’s ahead. Sometimes the best preparation is not any preparation at all. Sometimes you need the waves to push you over. Sometimes you need the flames to engulf you. Sometimes you need it to hurt. You need it to sting. You need it to downpour. You need it all to fall apart.

Because, only when it all falls apart will you learn this: just because you break does not mean you are broken. Because, you will break. Everyone breaks. But, the only people who remain broken are those who choose not to heal. And, you better believe with every fiber of your being that you will heal. You will crack. You will shatter. You will split apart at your seams. That is what happens when life hurls heartache your way. But, you will heal.

Ellyn Spragins has created a great series, but that series won’t tell you to take your ass to a therapist after you’ve been raped. Kate Couric’s book is nice, but it doesn’t have any chapters about how to find and keep your righteous mind after Roswell suddenly dies on a piping hot day in August. Books are beautiful, but they do not contain all of the answers. You don’t even realize how many of the answers you already have, how much strength you hold in that heart of yours, strength that is just waiting to reveal itself when you need it most.

So, embrace the fuckery of your extraordinary life. You do not need to know it all. You do not need to have it all. You do not need to do it all. This slice of life is yours for the taking. Stop trying to live up to your tough exterior and, instead, let life bring you to your knees. Let people in. Let your heart break and let it get filled to the brim again. Let your guard down. Embrace the mess. Embrace the unknown. Embrace the flames. The fuckery is what makes for an extraordinary life. You do not get to be an artist or a writer or a half-way decent human being without the fuckery. You don’t get to tell these stories and create these spaces and be this person without the mess. The mess is what gives all of it meaning. It’s what makes all of it beautiful. The mess is what makes your story one worth telling.

Xoxo,
soon-to-be 25-year-old Tyece

Do Not Surrender Your Twenties Pt. 3

This post is an excerpt from Twenties Unscripted: A Journey of Womanhood, Writing, and Relativity. The full essay is available in the book, which is currently available for pre-sale here.

Do Not Surrender Your Twenties

Do Not Surrender Your Twenties Pt. 2

 

Do not surrender your twenties to sitting on your dreams. Do the real work. Do it while everyone else is at happy hour. Do it when you’d rather sleep in on the weekends. Do it at 6 a.m. and do it during prime time television. Make the connections and do the work. Dreams do not materialize from fairy dust.

Do not surrender your twenties to a relentless grip on your past. Let it go. Let them go. Reconcile. See a therapist. Kneel at an altar. Heal. Forgive. Stop tallying the wrongs against you. Move on. Your scars are gorgeous and you would be nothing without them.

Do not surrender your twenties to running away from yourself. Quiet your mind. Clear the clutter. Let it be OK because you said so.

 

Feature: Nicole, Editor-in-Chief of GenTwenty

Today I’m excited to participate in a features swap with GenTwenty, an online community where twenty-somethings can write about the issues that speak to us. Admittedly (and ironically enough) I am not always a big fan of online spaces for twenty-something because the behemoths such as Thought Catalog and Elite Daily have given these sites a reputation for ejecting vapidness and absurdity into the Internet world. However, GenTwenty manages to overcome that generalization and produce thoughtful content, with Seattle-based freelancer Nicole Booz, co-founder and editor-in-chief, at the helm of the website. Learn more about Nicole, how she has monetized GenTwenty and what is next for the site.

And, to check out my feature today in GenTwenty’s “Conversations With A Blogger” series, click here!

How did you come up with the name GenTwenty?
When my fellow co-founder (Gina, who is no longer with GenTwenty) and I first began discussing GenTwenty and what we wanted it to be, we knew we wanted to write about Gen Y and well, our lives. Having recently graduated from college, we were both nervous and excited about our twenties and the uncharted adventures that lay ahead. We decided to merge the two and GenTwenty was born.

What distinguishes GenTwenty from other websites targeting millennials?
Personally, what I think makes GenTwenty stand out from the crowd is our diverse group of contributors. I’m fascinated by other people’s stories and I love having the chance to share them.

We also have some fun features like the Book of the Month Club, Generation Social – our social media column, A World of Wanderlusting, and a dating column written by the anonymous Jane. We try to do things a little differently than everyone else is doing them.

Nicole of GenTwenty
Nicole of GenTwenty

I think your twenties are a really crazy time in your life where you aren’t really sure who you are yet and you’re asking yourself a lot of questions that will help form what kind of person you really want to be. The GenTwenty community recognizes that and expresses it in nearly all of our work. We talk about the topics a lot of people want to avoid, especially in a public setting. For example, we just published The Fear of Not Being Good Enough.

I recently read an article called “Generation Whine: Self-Pitying Twentysomethings and the Boomers Who Made Them” where writer Laura Bennett says, “ ‘Take my experiences and make them yours’: This could be the rallying cry of this school of urban twentysomethingdom.” What is your response to people who dismiss or mock the concerns of twenty-somethings?
I just have to say – that article was a wild ride from start to finish.

I suppose they should dismiss their own concerns in that case. We all have struggles and they are all legitimate, even if someone else won’t recognize them. It’s a little naive to say that twenty-somethings are a whiny generation. I think we have just as many complaints as any other generation, we are just more vocal about them because we know we aren’t alone in our feelings. We aren’t at a point in our lives where we think our fates are sealed and we may as well accept it; we still believe that change is 100 percent possible and we actively seek that change.

I think we are in a perpetual state of “There’s got to be more to life than this.” Not a single twenty-something I know is interested in being with the same company thirty years from now. Many of our parents and role models ended up in that position and are unsatisfied. We refuse to settle for that. And honestly, I hope we are still not settling when we are fifty-somethings.

How have you implemented a sustainable model to monetize GenTwenty?
In June we launched our Official Partnership Program to work with bloggers and small businesses. All of the money gets funneled straight back into GenTwenty. It goes into site maintenance and advertising on other sites which helps build readership and increase page views, which is great for our sponsors because it means their ads are viewed more.

Who is GenTwenty’s ideal reader?

Our ideal reader is the one who seeks to consume the wheaties content and not the cotton candy (words from our very own Mara Johnson who included it in her application and a description that has not left my mind ever since).

I think there are a lot of site and blogs out there that cover the latest trends, outfit ideas, and list-type posts, favorite items, etc. – which definitely have their place, but are a dime a dozen on the web these days. So much of that done before. Sites like Thought Catalog and Buzzfeed are relatable and hilarious, but I want to dig deeper past the superficial stuff.

We seek to connect with those who are interested in deep, thought-provoking topics, those who have strong opinions and aren’t afraid to share them, those who need a little reassurance that things are going to be OK, and those who are mature enough to see someone else’s point of view. Self-awareness is also a big part of our ideal reader, people who see themselves as constantly evolving.

How do you maintain a sense of community at GenTwenty with many different voices on the site?
It’s difficult, I’m not going to skate around that. To have 25 different voices on one site is a complicated thing. I encourage our contributors to write in the first person – I think sharing personal stories and anecdotes helps keep us all connected. My goal is for readers to feel as if they are chatting with friends over a coffee. It’s a tough dynamic to achieve online with multiple contributors and it’s always a work in progress, but that is the ultimate goal.

If a reader is new to the site, what message do you hope they receive from the writing?
I hope when new readers come along, they catch onto a thought or a feeling and relate to it. I hope they gain a new perspective or understanding. I don’t want them to cry necessarily, but a strong emotional reaction is preferred.

Finish this thought: Twenty-somethings are ____________________
… just getting started.

What is next for GenTwenty?
Moving forward, I hope to refine GenTwenty’s voice into what sounds like a conversation between friends. I’d also like to publish an ebook within the next year and grow our partnership program. We’ll see!

Nicole is the Editor-in-chief at GenTwenty. She holds a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Maryland and considers herself to be a full-time creative. In her free time she enjoys exploring local markets, planning her next vacation, scrapbooking her adventures, and reading any book she can get her hands on. Connect with her on Twitter: @nicolebooz. Check out GenTwenty at www.gentwenty.com and follow them on Twitter at @GenTwenty

The Generation That Lives Out Loud

Day three of the #30Layers30Days self-discovery challenge asked us to cite our “favorite mistake,” a phrase that initially sounds like an oxymoron. But, upon reading the prompt further, I saw it asked what mistake we’ve made that we have learned the most from. It didn’t take much thought for me to conjure up the term “oversharing” in terms of a mistake that has kicked my ass and taught me more than I thought I could know.

Yet, still, I live some parts of my life out loud.

As I said in my response to the Day 3 prompt, “For better or worse, my shit is now out there. It’s on a blog. It’s on social media. It’s on YouTube. It’s out there. But, it is impossible to share your life without consequence and I have suffered some of those consequences of living out loud.”

A good fraction of being a blogger is trial and error. A large amount of that trial and error happens publicly with many eyes on you, some that you know and some you’ve never seen. Your triumphs and fuck-ups alike are all on display and after awhile, it starts to wear on you. It starts to present certain ramifications and repercussions. It starts to remind you that while bits of your life are public material, the entire sum of your life can’t function the same way. Some parts of life are loud and others deserve peace and quiet.

A few days ago I posted Laura Bennett’s 2012 New Republic article, “Generation Whine: Self-Pitying Twentysomethings and the Boomers Who Made Them” on my Facebook page. Bennett cites many influences that deify the twenty-something experience including Girls (a television show I watch religiously), Thought Catalog (a website I’ve written for) and F*ck! I’m In My Twenties (a book I own). If you are in the mood to feel somewhat pensive and mostly pretty shitty about yourself and the air you’re sucking up in the world, I’d advise you to read Bennett’s piece. Otherwise, I’ll drop her last paragraph and we can go from there:

“And yet reading Koenig and O’Connell, it is hard not to think that such smart, funny, articulate, motivated twentysomethings are wasting a decade’s worth of creative energy, that they would be better off living outside of their own heads for a while. But they want to be artists, and they want to be heard, and they are adrift between their own creative ambitions and the pressure that the culture at large has foisted on them: to be, as Hannah Horvath might say, the voice of their generation or at least a generation; to speak for everyone simply because they have a blog and so they can; to take their experiences, and make them ours.”

It was all good until she used the dreaded B word. Blog.

Despite having a blog called “Twenties Unscripted,” I’ve never felt direct nor indirect pressure to speak for my generation. I typically roll my eyes and avoid any website that deems itself “the ____________ for twenty-somethings.” “The” implies specificity and singularity that doesn’t ever strike me as accurate when applying anything to a group of people. I do not assume that my experiences and musings are a reflection of anyone else’s. In fact, I find solace in the belief that my experiences are unique in their own right. Of course I’ve noticed that other people’s lives have similar threads and that there are people who identify with my voice, but I also acknowledge that there are many, many people who would take one look at my blog and pass right over it.

I also wonder what Bennett would propose as an alternative to channeling all of our creative energy and living outside of our own heads. A jaunt around Europe, perhaps? Is she going to pay for that? Because, if so, sign me up. I wonder if Bennett understands how many people have saved themselves through blogging, through finding the courage to share their stories publicly and finding some semblance of sanity in knowing they are not alone. I wonder if Bennett knows I don’t think I’m wasting a decade’s worth of creative energy. I wonder if Bennett knows one day far, far away when I have books that have been written and dreams that have come to fruition, I will look back on Twenties Unscripted as the stairway to that heaven. Then I wonder why “But, they want to be artists” seems to carry such a nauseating connotation for Bennett. The world needs more art and it definitely needs more artists. Less lawyers, more artists. Less CEOs, more artists. Less people in suits, more artists.

I am the product of a generation that lives out loud. And, yes, I agree that my generation, self included, could benefit from not requiring our every thought to be endorsed and reaffirmed. But, I do believe my generation still knows discretion. I believe we still respect privacy. I believe we are able to take a step back and understand the bits of our lives that are sacrosanct. Maybe there are members of that generation like myself who only learn those things after they have exposed too much and lived to bear witness to the consequences.

But, I hope that we learn to cut the bullshit and work toward becoming more fulfilled, self-aware, self-actualized people through these loud lives. I hope that, in the words of Coldplay, these loud lives make us part of the cure, not part of the disease. I hope that because of these loud lives, we are able to foster connections with other people and their loud lives, the kind of connections that will serve as bridges over troubled water. I hope we are able to find ourselves and find some sort of meaning in those selves from these loud lives. I hope that we prove the generations ahead of us wrong, that we show them some good and some purpose has and will come out of these loud lives. I hope the byproduct and beauty from these lives are just as loud, just as emphatic, just as roaring as the lives themselves.

Xoxo,
Tyece